Penang cuisine refers to the multicultural cuisine of the State of Penang. Penang cuisine mostly comprise of street food popularly sold at roadside hawker stalls, in hawker centres or in coffeeshops across the State of Penang. For centuries, Penang Island has served as a melting pot for various ethnicities and religions; Penang cuisine reflects the hybrid mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Peranakan, Thai, Eurasian and European influences.
The capital city of Penang, George Town, has been internationally recognised as one of the best street food cities in the world over the past decade. Indeed, Penang cuisine has been one of the main selling points of Penang's tourism marketing campaigns and Penang hawker food has even found its way to restaurants around the world.
Although Penang cuisine is generally similar to the street cuisines of Singapore and other parts of Malaysia, each Penang street food can be easily distinguished from similar varieties served in, say, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
List of Dishes
A great number of dishes, snacks and desserts can be classified under Penang cuisine. For starters, the Penang state government has released a list of protected Penang street food, which includes some of the more popular and authentic Penangite street dishes. The list is as follows.
Penang char kuey teow exudes a wok hei (fresh from a frying wok) flavour, compared to the sweeter Singaporean variety.
Although laksa can be found all over Southeast Asia, Penang asam laksa is the more popular variety. It was ranked 7th. in a CNN list of the world's best foods.
Penang Hokkien mee is an entirely distinct variety, compared to the stir-fried Singaporean version and the darker, thicker Kuala Lumpur version.
Penang curry mee is typically served with coagulated pork blood and cuttlefish.
Penang chee cheong fun, with its thicker, sweeter prawn paste, differs from the typical Hong Kong variety which comes with sweetened soya sauce.
Loh bak is a Chinese dish consisting of pork marinated in five-spice powder and rolled up with bean curd skin.
Oh chien or fried oyster omellette, is another popular Penang hawker fare.
Wan tan mee is a Cantonese noodle dish popular throughout Singapore and Malaysia.
Penang char kuey kak (fried rice cakes) is another uniquely Penangite dish and also exudes a wok-hei taste, compared to the sweeter Singaporean chai tau kuey (radish cakes).
Nasi lemak, usually eaten for breakfast, is one of the most popular Malay street food in Malaysia and Singapore.
Pasembur, a salad consisting of vegetables and seafood, is peculiar only to Penang Island. Elsewhere in Malaysia, it is called rojak mamak.
Mee sotong is a fried noodle dish in which squids are the main ingredient.
Kuey teow th'ng is a Chinese dish consisting of flat rice noodles served in a clear savoury broth.
Aside from these dishes, several other dishes, snacks and desserts, which are not under the protected list, are just as famous.
Apom is a popular Indian pancake snack.
Apom balik is a crispier Peranakan variation of the aforementioned apom. It is either filled with sweetened ground peanuts or sweet corn with a sprinkling of sugar.
Penang is famous for its tau sar pneah, a soft Chinese pastry filled with green bean paste. A box of tau sar pneah is a highly recommended gift for tourists visiting Penang Island.
Bak kut teh, a Chinese pork-rib herbal soup meal, is popular throughout Singapore and Malaysia.
Nasi kandar is a popular Indian Muslim dish, with several restaurants in George Town, Penang serving hordes of locals and tourists alike with the dish.
Popiah is a Chinese-style spring roll containing turnip, beancurd, fried eggs, chilli paste and a sweet sauce.
Ais kacang is a popular icy dessert found throughout Singapore and Malaysia. The Penang version comes with shredded nutmeg pickle and raisins.
Chendul is another famous Singaporean/Malaysian icy dessert. Two roadside hawker stalls off Penang Road, George Town, Penang sell the best Penang chendul, and have even opened franchises throughout Malaysia and Singapore.
Nyonya kuih are varieties of Peranakan pastry, typically eaten as snacks or desserts, and are popular on Penang Island as well as in the former Straits Settlements of Malacca and Singapore.
Rojak is a quintessential Singaporean/Malaysian dessert salad consisting of various fruits and vegetables.